trouble in mind

July 15, 2010

{this is a continuation of a series i did in march called the grumbles primer on pumping at work, this post covers troubleshooting while pumping and dealing with supply issues.  see also: what you need | how when where | morale and you  pumping moms are a pretty selective niche audience so if this isn't your groove i understand and i'll cruise you tomorrow, xo}

the grumbles primer on pumping at work (part four)

if you pump long enough eventually you're bound to run into some issues.  imagine this scenario with me:  you zip off to get your pumping done and you don't get as much as you are used to.  or as much as you need.  or worst of all– nothing.    these are not hypothetical, these are actual problems i've experienced in my almost 9 months of work-pumping.  let's troubleshoot this situation step by step:

check your mechanics
sometimes it can seem like a supply problem when, in fact, you're having a mechanical failure.  the confusing thing about the pump (fyi, i have a medela pump in style) is that if something is wrong it will keep pumping, just not as effectively.  it will not stop working, it will just be mysteriously crappy.  i can tell you firmly that about 80% of the problems i've had have been pump-related or user error.
do these first...
1.  check your flanges.  if they don't have a good seal or one is ajar you won't get suction.  hold them up close by your face and look at them carefully, don't just assume they are doing their job.
2.  check your seal.  if your breast shields aren't fully against your breast you also won't get suction.  make sure the edge of your shirt hasn't slipped up under the shield.
3.  check your tubes.  make sure they are tightly connected and haven't sprung an air leak.
4.  check your power supply.  if you're using the outlet adapter make sure you're fully plugged in.  since i pump using the battery pack it's a little trickier.  this is my number one problem- i think i'm getting the dreaded low supply when really my batteries are out.  good god, charge your batteries or carry a backup set.  i'm an idiot about this one.

check your stress
stress is a dirty dirty thing and it can have a huge effect on your supply.  and the more you worry about supply the worse the stress gets the less you make.  it's a vicious cycle.  there are a few things you can do to combat it though...
1.  breathe.  use your pumping time as a relaxing quiet break
2.  get in the mood.  many people suggest carrying a picture of your baby or a onesie/blanket that smells like your baby to help you achieve letdown more effectively.  frankly, that has never worked for me, but maybe for you.  what works for me?  playing cubes lite on my iphone.  it occupies my brain just enough to zone out.  weird?  maybe.  works?  yes.  find your happy place and go there.
3.  chill the fuck out.  the more i worry about not pumping enough the less i make.  you just have to relax and realize that whatever you get is a good thing.  it is what it is.

check your hormones
just this last week i had a huge freakout.  have you ever had your supply randomly plummet?  i mean just be completely decimated for no reason?  chances are that if your baby is more than 6 months old surprise! you're ovulating.  for a few days you might not produce much milk.  the good news is that it bounces back.

tips and tricks for getting more out of your pumping sessions
•  always be sure to pump for 2-5 minutes after the milk stops coming out.  that time, though it might seem like a waste, is a big part of signaling your body to make more.
•  use breast compressions/massage to work out those last remnants of milk.  the more you get out the better and the pump isn't as effective as your baby.
•  try to get a second let down.  after your milk has stopped turn the pump up to full force and flip it back into let down mode.  this will often trigger a second let down.  if it doesn't don't get discouraged.  if your body isn't used to more than one let down it might take some practice rounds to get it into the habit.  i can only get one about 20% of the time.

check your diet
there's a lot you can do to help your milk production just by what you eat/drink.  it doesn't always work but it's worth a shot if you're starting to worry...
good for supply:
· lots of water
· oatmeal
· whole grains
· dark beer
· thistle
· fenugreek (liquid or capsule supplement)
· mother's milk tea
· awesome guinness oatmeal cookies
bad for supply:
· sage (who knew?!)

if you're experiencing pumping problems run through this list.  if you didn't find your answer... well, hell.  it's a tricky process.  a few times i've had that dreaded scenario of going to pump and having nothing come out.  i cried, each time.  the best i can tell you is to just keep going.

if you pump and nothing comes out it isn't a wasted session.  pumping, whether you get milk or not, is signaling your body to make more.  and that's a good thing.  chin up.  pump as often as your schedule will allow.  feed your baby often at home.  add a night session for a week.  stick with it as long as you want to and give yourself permission to only bother with it as long as you feel comfortable.

pumping moms and previously pumping moms do you have a tip to add? 
something that worked for you or... really didn't?

do you have a question about pumping?  ask me!  i'm at thegrumbles at hotmail dot com. if i don't know the answer i'll find someone who does.

*blogger's note:  this post was written by someone with a history of oversupply.  this is just my experience with pumping.  some women may have better or worse results based on their own bodies.  not everyone can or wants to keep pumping this freaking long and you don't have to.  today's psa of love and acceptance.  because truly, pumping is an unpleasant bitch.

9 comments:

AthenaBee

To get my supply going in the very beginning I pumped every 2 hours no matter what. It sucks, but man does it work.

I've had milk get into the hoses of my pump and cause it to go on the fritz before. My dad had to fix it as it was too complicated for my feeble mind.

Sometimes after I pump with my electric one I'll bust out the hand pump. It applies suction in different spots so I would always get more out.

Anne

I use to listen to Loveline podcasts when I pumped at work!

I use to lean over when sitting on a chair and squeeze my breasts. This would help the flow. I could usually get more out this way.

Anonymous

After you're done with your pump (between kids) don't store it in an attic since the exteme temperatures could damge its functionality. I had a friend learn this the hard way.

the grumbles

anonymous- fabulous tip! (says the girl who was probably going to pump her pump in the attic some day)

Meggan

Hi! Me again. I like the point about checking the power supply, because on day three of being back at work, I plugged my pump in, turned it on, and... nothing. Tried pressing the test/reset buttons on the outlet. Nothing. Tried different outlet. Nothing.

Panic ensued. I truly thought my pump had up and died after three days on the job and I had visions of my boobs exploding and my baby starving to death at daycare.

Turns out I had my pump plugged into the outlet just fine, but the other end, the bit that plugs into the actual PUMP, that had jiggled itself loose so it still LOOKED like it was plugged in, but it was NOT.

I sat in the bathroom and just cried. (Because yes, I had already been relegated to the bathroom that day due to being kicked out of conference rooms I'd already booked.)

So! Word to the wise: CHECK YOUR POWER CORD.

Running Chatter

It's nice to "meet" you as well. I have been following your blog anonymously for awhile and have thoroughly enjoyed your writing AND pictures.

Jem

Hi :) found you through Meggan :D

Can I contradict you? Stress doesn't affect supply. It does affect let-down though.

Like I said to Meggan, I have massive respect for pumping mums. It's crazy hard and I can't do it!

the grumbles

@Jem- that is totally plausible, makes sense! either way, more stress for me = no milk coming out.

erin

My advice would be to have a back up pump or pay attention to your little flangey bastids while pumping. I accidentally killed my medela pump (it was amazing, but so noisy!) while watching True Blood because I didn't notice that the flange got stuck, milk overflowed, went down the tubes, and got into the pump itself. Which then died.

I've tried a different brand and while it was quieter, it really was nowhere near as effective as my medela. So I'm saving up my pennies to get a new one.

Still, when it died, I freaked out because it was like, what am I going to use tomorrow at work? Gah! Hence the purchase of The Replacement Pump That Was Not As Good.

Also, make sure to keep your pump put away so that your industrious toddler doesn't pull off the flanges. I had to make an emergency call to the lactation consultants at the hospital and they had some extras that they gave me for free. So maybe stock up on those for whichever brand of pump you have.

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